AS101: Je Suis Ahmed

This week was supposed to be the Parenting Panel, but given recent events, I am electing to delay those episodes by a week. In this episode I wade into the mess that is the popular response to the Charlie Hebdo shooting. I take a look at the range of responses and have some thoughts on all of them. Here are some links:

8 thoughts on “AS101: Je Suis Ahmed”

  1. CJ, and crowd ARE talking about Sam Harris, and Jerry Coyne. They fear the reasonable voices who criticize Islam more than they fear the #killallmuslim people. They may even, in their heart of hearts agree with them, but they fear the reasonable voices give cover, and a reasonable face to “Islamaphobia”.
    I mean if they admit Islam is the problem, then what’s the solution? Their afraid the solution that people will latch on to is the solution suggested by right wing bigots. The problem with that is that by not admitting there’s a problem, they aren’t working to find a solution, and that means right wing bigots are the only group providing one. A solution none of us want to see.

    I wanted to add that I find the JE SUIS AHMED meme problematic. He was a cop doing his job. To hold him up as a shining light implies we don’t expect Muslim cops to uphold the law when they conflict with their religious beliefs.Sure he’s a hero for dying in the line of duty, but no more so than any of the 3 cops killed.

    Finally I think the number of Muslims who support what happened is very small, certainly no more than 5%. That being said they almost universally find criticism of Muhammad offensive. So there’s going to be some degree of victim blaming underlying their condemnation. In fact we see that coming from the CJ crowd when they feel the need to attempt to argue (poorly) that Charlie was a racist, Islamaphobic, Xenophobic, sexist rag that offended just to offend, with an almost “they brought it on themselves” tone.

    1. That’s a good clarification and something I probably didn’t phrase correctly. You’re right, they are directing their criticism toward Harris and others, but what bugs me is they do so while assigning onto Harris and others motives that they very clearly don’t have.
      As for your comments about Ahmed, I’m not sure what to say. I do think Ahmed was slightly more a hero in this case. It doesn’t bring any other cop down to say that, it’s just that he happened to be defending free speech that was going against his religion. I find that really inspiring and a good example. Why would you not want him to be held up as an example for other Muslims?

  2. Thomas, I generally find your point of view very reasonable, but I must say I’ve never disagreed with you more than when you said that people rallying in support of Charlie Hebdo made you uncomfortable. While I think it is silly to act like Islam had nothing to do with the attack on Charlie Hebdo, it is even more ridiculous to suggest there is something wrong with rallying against this attack, because it was perpetrated by Muslims.

    The people rallying are standing up against violence, not Muslims, and that is exactly what is needed at a time like this. Sane people need to stand up, denounce violence, and support the innocent victims. The people rallying are doing a bold and necessary thing – standing up to violence and terrorism, and making a loud statement that the threat of violence will not cower a free society. I actually find the demonstrations quite moving (which probably has a lot to do with why I disagree with your statement so much).

    1. I think you’ll find I said several times I don’t have a problem with anyone rallying. It just makes me nervous that things might escalate. Do you not have any fear that with so many people rallying against a common enemy, there could be a backlash against Muslims? In any good cause there are terrible people, and herd mentality can be scary. That’s all. I’ll say it again, I don’t have any problem with anyone rallying, I just think we should be aware that ingroup outgroup feelings can get really strong and sometimes dangerous.

      1. Oops, my comment below was meant to be a reply to your comment, not a new comment. I’m not so good at the internet apparently

      2. I think this is the part where it’s important for Muslims to put their voices out there, imagine how beneficial it would be if Muslims joined them and took part in the rally. It’s not a march against Islam, it’s a march against terrorism.

        I think a lot of people don’t understand that you can’t end racism unilaterally, it’s like a relationship. If you’re not making connections with like-minded people from the other group and building up the relationship mutually then you’re wanting a relationship with an imagined ideal of the other group, not the actual other group.
        Forming a relationship unilaterally is also known as stalking. Make sure they actually do feel the same way first or otherwise it’s better just to keep separate until they do start feeling the same way unless you want to end up in an abusive relationship.

  3. When this type of violent incident occurs, there will unfortunately be a backlash against Muslims (I’ve seen reports of it happening already). That backlash is legitimately worrying and totally disgusting, and it is also perpetrated by morons. I don’t see that backlash in anyway related to the people rallying in support of the victims. They seem like two totally different things to me.

  4. Hi Thomas,

    As a french atheist, allow me to bring my modest contribution to the conversation.
    First of all, as was already mentioned, Ahmed Merabet died while doing is duty, and as such he is truly a hero. But contrary to what you imply in your podcast, and let’s be clear, it doesn’t make him less of a hero, he did not die as a muslim “protecting” Charlie Hebdo, he was not aware of the fact at the time of the event. He died as a police officer who had been called onto a shooting reported by some witnesses, and he certainly had no idea what was going on at the time he arrived at the scene (several hundred meters from Charlie Hebdo’s office). But honestly, had he known the shooting involved this journal, I am convinced it would not have made any difference and he would have tried to intervene just the same.
    Actually, you might have confused this policemen with another officer, Franck Brinsolaro, who was actually protecting one of the cartoonist, Stephane Charbonnier (a.k.a. Charb), and was shot while trying to protect them. Again, this does not make the slightest difference, they are both heros just the same.

    Another point upon which I disagree strongly with you. On several occasions, you clearly express your concern to see so many people demonstrating in the streets “against islam or against muslims”. I was in the demonstration on the streets on Paris last sunday, with around 2 million other Parisians, and almost 4 million french citizens. I can assure you, without any doubt, it was not at all against Islam or Muslims. It was only about defending freedom of speech and denouncing violence against jews. There were absolutely no single word against muslims, in fact there were a lot of muslims in the demonstration, and everybody understood why they were there and welcomed them.

    As a final note, I would like to say that, to my big surprise and disappointment, I found the “tone” of your podcast strangely “cautious” and extremely “light” on the religious dimension…As a hardcore atheist, I have been devastated by these events. These cartoonists were like mentors to us french atheists, they were the cognitive dissonance, the scathing atheists of France, and contrary to what is being said in the media, they were not killed because they represented freedom of speech. No, they were killed for a purely religious reason. They were killed for a “crime” which only exists in religious minds. For the crime of blasphemy. And unfortunately, now that they are dead, I find only silence in the french atheist community.

    I realize it is unfair to begrudge you for not bringing me the support I was looking for, and I don’t want to leave you with the wrong impression. I really appreciate your podcast and all your work in the atheist community, and I am really looking forward to your next episode.

    All the best.

    PS: I am a dude, it is pronounced almost like stephen (and not stephanie !!! This drives me crazy ,-)

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